The Pentagon’s inspector general said it will begin an evaluation of the Air Force’s certification of SpaceX’s primary launch vehicles, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, years after a legal fight led to a victory for the company founded by Elon Musk.
“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.
The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to the field of space launches that was dominated by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the launch business in part to end a monopoly on military space launches.
The review will begin this month, the memo said, and will be undertaken at the Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, California.
The memo to Wilson was signed by Michael Roark, deputy for intelligence and special program assessments. It didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the inspector general, didn’t have an immediate comment as to what led to the evaluation.
SpaceX officials declined to comment. Air Force spokesman Brigadier General Edward Thomas said the service didn’t have an immediate comment.
The Air Force certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to carry military satellites after a bitter feud between Musk and the service. As a result, SpaceX agreed to drop a lawsuit challenging U.S. contracts for military satellite launches awarded to the ULA joint venture.
Since the certification, SpaceX has won two competitions against ULA, including the job to launch the nation’s first GPS III satellite, which occurred in December.
By Tony Capaccio